Brook Kilpatrick reporting for AFANA from Australia
Both teams came into Round 3 with a 0-2 record and were feeling the heat for different reasons. Demons' coach Mark Neeld had been under siege after a poor start to his AFL coaching career, taking over a team considered Finals contenders at the start of the previous season. The coaching change was supposed to inject new life into the Demon line-up but the results so far had been disappointing to say the least. On the other side of the coin, Richmond shared the dreaded 0-2 record. However both losses were to highly touted opponents in Carlton and Collingwood. There had been enough positive football played by the Tigers to suggest they could still improve on their 12th position finish from last season but a loss to the struggling Demons would no doubt have loyal supporters and the media lamenting yet another season of unfulfilled promise.
Spectators nervously took their seats, reporters sharpened their knives and the Round 3 contest was underway. Melbourne was competing hard early and it was expensive recruit Mitch Clark who had the first goal on the board for the Demons. The next ten minutes saw Richmond take control of the clearances and it was the out-of-form Ty Vickery who received from Jack Riewoldt to put the Tigers' first goal on the board. Nathan Foley and Shaun Grigg were getting plenty of the ball for Richmond while Jeremy Howe was impressive for the Demons early. Goals to pocket rocket Robin Nahas and the blue collar Shane Tuck gave the Tigers a handy early buffer. Melbourne continued to work for each other and despite Richmond dominating the possession count, the Demons managed to hang in the contest. The Demons' aggressive attack was personified by Melbourne co-Captain Jack Grimes when a vicious tackle had Richmond’s Daniel Jackson seeing stars as his head was driven into the boundary side AstroTurf. At quarter time in a scrappy affair it was the Tigers who led by 13 points.
Jeremy Howe opened the scoring in the second quarter with a goal to Melbourne, followed by a second to Nathan Jones after a clumsy tackle by the unusually quiet Dustin Martin. Almost audible was the sound of Richmond fans starting to gnaw on their fingernails as the Demons got the margin back to single figures. While Melbourne maintained momentum, the Tigers temporarily lost both their focus and their cool, and when the much improved Alex Rance gave away a 50 meter penalty to young Melbourne gun Jack Watts, the resultant goal saw the game back on even terms. Barely six minutes into the second quarter, Clark kicked his second goal and the underdog Demons hit the front. Melbourne was taking control of the clearances with Richmond’s front line on-ballers being uncharacteristically outplayed. It was the Tigers' second tier midfielders who upped their work rate to regain the ascendancy from the Demons. Tuck, Foley and Reece Conca were sensational in controlling the ball for the rest of the quarter and by half time they had steadied the ship to take back the lead by a nervous eight points. Melbourne supporters would have been well pleased with the second quarter fight back while the Tiger fans were lamenting a solid start that had once again been whittled back by determined opposition.
As the second half commenced, it became apparent that the Tigers had something to prove as Brett Deledio took charge in the center. Richmond drew first blood before the Demons got a goal back through Adelaide Crows' discard James Sellar. With the ball in dispute in the Tiger forward line, the rampaging Deledio snuck another major through for Richmond providing a bit of breathing space. Richmond’s Shaun Grigg, who was racking up possessions at will, then goaled to stretch the margin to 27 points. It appeared that the Melbourne resistance was waning. At the following center bounce, Martin finally made his presence known, bursting through the middle, shrugging off Demon Jordan McKenzie and launching a monstrous goal from 60 meters out to put Richmond fans in raptures. In 15 minutes the Tigers had taken the game by the scruff of the neck and made a statement. Hard working Robin Nahas ran down Melbourne’s Colin Garland, played on from the resultant free kick and goaled again for the Tigers. Before Melbourne could collect themselves Trent Cotchin bobbed up for another Tiger goal and the lead blew out to 39 points. Panic had well and truly set in for the Demons when an interchange mix-up gifted Ivan Maric another goal for the Tigers before young Reece Conca continued his excellent game by putting consecutive goals on the board for the red-hot Tigers. When the dust settled at three quarter time, Richmond had piled on a game-winning nine goals to the Demons single six-pointer and held a seemingly insurmountable 59 point lead.
Neither side's final quarter was one for the highlight reel. Deledio kicked the first goal for Richmond but Melbourne kept the margin in check. Jack Trengove added a goal after a nice assist from Aaron Davey and the game see-sawed from end to end for the remainder of the quarter. Cotchin broke the shackles to have a solid second half while Melbourne substitute Lynden Dunn made something of his short stint on the ground by converting twice on goal. Howe continued to shine on a tough day for the hapless Demons and young co-Captain Trengove chipped in for another goal to minimize the scoreboard damage for the Dees. In a nice cameo on his 150th game, ex-Melbourne discard Brad Miller notched his third goal for the Tigers as they ran out comfortable 59 point winners.
Richmond Coach Damien Hardwick would have been well pleased with the Tigers' first win of the season and the way it was accomplished. With a couple of the big guns quiet, excellent performances from Tuck, Foley, Nahas, Conca, Grigg and Dylan Grimes would have put a smile on the face of the coach and the die-hard Tiger army. For Melbourne, a game that started with promise ended in another big loss with only Howe, Watts and Frawley putting in solid four-quarter performances. The most damning statistic for the Demons was the 65 to 30 inside 50 meter count in favor of the Tigers who also won the possession count 425 to 266.
Richmond will not have much time to enjoy the victory as they travel to Simonds Stadium to face reigning Premiers Geelong in Round 4, while a battered Melbourne outfit will be looking for their first win against the struggling Western Bulldogs at the MCG.
Scoreboard Richmond: 4.4 6.8 15.11 20.13 (133) Melbourne: 2.3 5.6 6.6 11.8 (74) Best players Richmond: Grigg, Tuck, Nahas, Conca, Foley, Deledio Melbourne: Howe, Frawley, Watts, McKenzie
Article last changed on Wednesday, April 18, 2012 - 9:51 AM EDT